Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Capability Framework 2010 – 2033 is focused on the provision of culturally appropriate health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers and communities.

Cultural capability refers to the skills, knowledge, behaviours and systems that are required to plan, support, improve and deliver services in a culturally respectful and appropriate manner.

As professionals working in this sector, it is important that we actively explore and implement strategies to improve engagement and positive interactions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Building cultural capacity can be achieved through access to relevant training, exploring available resources within our services and in our community , building partnerships and networks and developing strategies to enable us to work successfully and confidently.

Consider the different perspectives between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Western society

Aboriginal Perspectives Western Perspectives Considerations
Dreaming, spirituality Religious Beliefs and customs
Unchanging Process and change Mainstream structures, process driven
Land custodians Land ownership Connection to country, homelands
Health – holistic and relational Scientific, analytical, health and wellbeing Introducing new concepts, language and medical terminology
Traditional healing – natural remedies Health system, medication and trained health professionals Beliefs and customs
Oral – passed through kinship structure Written – books and documents Sharing information – best approach for providing information.
Society emphasis is on group obligation Individual Consider how the issues impacts the individual and their family and community.
Knowledge of life and practical Academic, research, business, technological and economic considerations Hands on approach, visual learning, life experiences – family and community.
Use of time – Murri time On time, efficient, cost effective, outcome driven Scheduling appointments and meetings at an appropriate venue.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often move to be with family. When Sorry Business and customary events take place, families may travel to attend these events and stay with others for long periods of time.

Arranging appointments

  • Check personal details – ensure you have the correct telephone number and mailing address. It may be worth your while to ask families if they can foresee any future events that change their living arrangements and if there are any other alternative contact details they canprovide.
  • Ask for the details of an additional family contact person. Sometimes, including other family members as contacts can help the family to plan for their appointments.
  • Ask if there are any services in their community that can assist with transport to the appointment. Try asking if they would like that service to be involved to support their family locally.
  • If appointments can be arranged during pay week this may help to ensure the family can cover any additional travel costs.
  • Check if there are any other family members who will be impacted by attending this appointment. Suggest possible solutions and schedule the appointment on a date that allows time for the family to make plans.
  • Provide relevant information regarding the appointment using clear and concise language, easy-to-follow instructions and pictorial directions.
  • Provide information regarding an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support person they can contact before, during or after the event.

Creating a culturally safe environment

When providing a service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, consider the appropriateness of your:

  • Level of formality and directness
  • Vocal levels
  • Language and jargon
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Expression of emotion
  • Extent of physical contact

Reflect on your own practice

Building your cultural capacity is essential in enhancing your role as a health professional. As part of your continual professional development, reflecting on your cultural knowledge and development of strategies is important to your professional growth.

Consider the following to evaluate your cultural capacity:

  • Do you believe that you effectively engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients?
  • Do you feel you are communicating effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients?
  • What other strategies can you use to assist in your dealings with them?
  • Do you schedule in regular reviews on your cultural practices and strategies?
  • Do you regularly maintain networks, partnerships and contacts with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander key stakeholders and individuals?
  • Are there any additional resources that can assist you and your service to improve engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
  • Do you regularly consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and work colleagues to research cultural capacity building?

Useful Links

CHQ intranet webpage (resources)

Online CPP (iLearn)

PDF resources

A guide for improving the identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health care

Communicating effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Cultural Capability Audit

Guidelines for flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags

Sad News Sorry Business

Protocols for use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Mipla Binna home

Contact us

Queensland Hearing Loss Family Support Service (QHLFSS)

t: 1800 352 075 (toll free)